From a previous blog post I wrote on the issue of weight and tolerance:
Issues of weight have recently been a topic of discussion in my circles and I would like to address them. There seems to be a growing animosity, an arrogant rejection of the plight of the overweight. People insist “fat” people are not discriminated against in the same way that a gay person or a black person is.
If you are overweight you are automatically assumed to be stupid, lazy and unattractive. It is assumed that you lack self control, you overeat, you are unhealthy and you don’t care. You are denied jobs, called names and you are treated differently. You are forced to live in a world that does not accept or accommodate your size, no different than a “little person.” Take a look at what is offered for clothing for the large … you move from beautiful colour and shapes in “regular” sizes to dull uninteresting limited “sacs.” Evidently when you are large you are not expected to ever go out or to enjoy looking nice. I recently read a written comment, “a gay person cannot help being gay, but a fat person can diet.”
There was a time when everyone thought gay people could just control themselves and stop being homosexual…. that it was a chosen preference. We have certainly proven that is wrong.
I wonder why we never seem to learn from the lessons of the past or wake up to ourselves? We seem so proud that we now accept gays, that we are feminists and are for women’s rights, but what happened to remembering what it was like to be on the wrong side of the fence, ridiculed and outcast, to be the ones without any rights? Why aren’t we the first to stand up and fight for others or to be fair or is it only about looking out for ourselves?
Yes there are people who overeat and are overweight who could change their diets and be healthier, exercise more etc. Just like there are African Americans who break the law and deserve to be in jail. We are outraged at the idea that someone might suggest all African Americans are criminals. Not all overweight people are overweight because they overeat. People are overweight for a variety of reasons.
Poverty in Australia, for example, might send you to the food bank. There you will probably get fruits and veggies from local farmers that could not be sold. You could scratch the dirt and throw some seeds in and grow a ton of fruit and vegetables here. Fruits grow wild and are free for the picking. Throw a line into the ocean or a river and you have fish …. all healthy food. In Canada, for another example, poverty sends you to the food bank where there are seldom perishables because we don’t grow much and they are our most expensive part of our diet. Particularly during winter months, which can be up to 8 months of the year, we are limited to stockable items … like pasta, beans, canned goods. You can’t grow much most of the year and certainly not fruits like you can in Australia. Families that struggle are often left with food choices that fill up a hungry family, but do not provide a very healthy diet. The very agencies and outreaches set up to help feed these people are the ones often providing cans of tomatoes, spaghetti and dried soups. Christmas drives to help the food banks are “bring a can of something.” Fruits and veggies are sometimes “the treat” of a families diet. Some of what contributes to being overweight has to do with limits of what is available to be eaten.
Second of all I would like to offer an observance of mine. My husbands family are all tiny petite women. They have the fastest metabolism I have ever seen. They are not thinner because they work at it, deserve it, eat healthier, or have done the right thing. In fact, my step daughter eats more junk than I have ever seen anyone eat and she eats more food than I can imagine. She is always eating, always hungry, but she never gains a pound. She does not exercise, she is not healthy. I know of other overweight women who do exercise, regularly get out and play sports, and eat very little and are very healthy ….who cannot lose the weight. They have very slow metabolisms. Some of what contributes to being overweight has to do with metabolism.
You also have the issues of genes. I was always the tallest girl in my class, with big bones. I was never going to be petite or thin. Nothing I can do will ever change that. More and more they are finding there are probably other genetic causes for being overweight, in fact actual causes of someone being overweight no different than the reason some people get cancer, or diabetes … not something that anyone has a “choice ” over or can do anything about. Some of what contributes to being overweight has to do with the cards you are dealt.
Some people actually do have illnesses and difficulties that make it impossible to exercise or impossible to lose the weight. There are more and more of these situations coming up all the time. Again, these happen through no fault of their own and sometimes they can be the victim of these situations. They do not choose to be rendered inactive or to become ill with something, or develop a condition that causes them to gain weight. We don’t say to the person suffering with anorexia … just eat something. We see that as a complex eating disorder and we afford them some compassion. There are eating disorders of all kinds. We understand that many people drink and never have a problem. Some people drink and become alcoholics. Some people can eat a slice of chocolate cake and stop. Some people eat chocolate cake and cannot stop. Some of what contributes to being overweight has to do with legitimate medical reasons, psychological problems and addictions.
Some people cannot afford to go to gyms and again .. .live in Australia .. you can walk pretty much any day of the year. Want to play sport? Most sports played here simply requires some basic clothing, a ball … and you head over to one of the many sport fields or just find a park or an open area. In Canada, again the weather is a factor. Almost all sport requires lots of specialized equipment that is expensive and you must belong to a club or pay to use indoor facilities. Overweight people who go to a gym often find themselves in the minority of the taut muscled and sculpted bodies of men and women running around in cute little leotards looking fabulous already. They look on knowing no matter how hard they work and how much they lose, they are never going to look like that. Some of what contributes to being overweight has to do with finances and opportunity.
Some people would like to be on top of things and would like to get out but getting out means dealing with the taunts, the looks, the judgments. People don’t even give you a chance to find out who you are once they see you … all the assumptions are made. People don’t assume all coloured people are stupid. They don’t assume all gays are unattractive. They don’t suggest that all women lack self control. They do about overweight people. Eventually the “fat” learn their lesson. Look away from them enough times, make disgusting faces, move away, say unkind things enough . . . and they get it. They accept that they are embarrassing and that no-one wants them around and they stay inside their homes with themselves and the only comfort becomes . . . food. The taunts and judgments don’t motivate them, they defeat them. They gain even more weight. And if judging them does not motivate them, then the only reason you are doing it is to be nasty. Feel better? Some of what contributes to being overweight has to do with the judgments poured on them.
I haven’t even touched upon the quality of the foods our governments have sought to feed us, the chemicals, the loaded sugars …. I have talked about the damaged environment that impacts our health and quality of life. I haven’t talked about the lack of kept standards and integrity for those companies that process the food.
The truth is you have no idea why the person standing next to you is overweight. You really do not have ANY idea. We don’t condemn the women with breast cancer whose daughters end up with the same and say wow, if she would just have changed her diet, exercised some self control and had a brain in her head, her daughters would not have to go through the same thing . .. What is wrong with her?
Stop it. The tears are real. The pain is real. NO-ONE chooses to be overweight anymore than they CHOOSE to be gay. Some compassion and understanding are in order here.